Local law enforcement agencies and other emergency responders had a busy year in 2013. From car crashes to homicides or death investigations, some cases continue to be looked into while some have been resolved. Today’s installment is the final of a three-part series recapping some of the news reported in 2013.
- Twanna “Tart” Blair, 35, was charged federally in September following an investigation into alleged sale and delivery of crack cocaine.
Blair, 35, faces 47 years to life in prison if convicted, according to the local investigator who was in charge of the case.
Blair was allegedly involved in the sale and delivery of more than 500 grams of the substance.
BCSO investigators were in charge of the case and brought state charges, which have now been handed off to the federal authorities for prosecution of the case. “The investigation was conducted by the Bradley County Sheriff's Office and was submitted to federal court after meeting the criteria for federal prosecution,” said Bob Gault, BCSO media relations coordinator.
- A shooting at Lowe’s Home Improvement located on Paul Huff Parkway sent police scurrying to the scene.
Avery E. Shelton Jr., was placed under a $1 million bond after he made an appearance in Bradley County General Sessions Court after he reportedly went on a shooting rampage at the store. He allegedly fired a weapon both outside and inside the store in what investigators learned was a domestic-related incident.
The shooting unfolded quickly late one evening in October, but Cleveland police were also quick to respond to an “active shooter” situation.
Within seconds of the call from a person who was in an adjacent parking lot, Cleveland Police Department officers were on the scene where Shelton was alleged to have been looking for Tyler Post, an employee at the business, reports said. The store had shut its doors for the day just a little over an hour earlier.
Bradley County 911 reports noted “the story is that the suspect’s wife was [allegedly] cheating on him with an employee there — threats were made from the suspect to his estranged wife, that he was on his way to Lowe’s to kill Tyler Post.”
Earlier reports from Parks during the initial investigation indicated Shelton had been parked beside Post’s car and a manager went out to the parking lot to see why.
Shelton reportedly left, then returned, parking in front of a glass door. He then reportedly exited his vehicle and walked toward the front of the store.
The affidavit stated Shelton had a handgun hidden from view.
The manager and employee were standing inside when Shelton reportedly raised the weapon and fired three shots into the glass door, shattering the glass.
According to Parks, the manager and employee ran when they saw the firearm. Shelton then entered the store and chased the two. At least two more shots were fired inside the building.
Eventually, officers were able to get Shelton to drop the 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and he was taken into custody without further incident.
Shelton was charged with attempted first-degree murder and four counts of felony reckless endangerment.
The case is still pending in Bradley County Criminal Court.
- Hometown rivalry continued in mid-October when unidentified students climbed up on the canopy at Bradley Central High School and painted the school’s mascot Bradley Bear blue.
The vandalism occurred just before the BCHS-Cleveland Blue Raiders High School football game.
Two CHS students were discovered to have committed the act and schools worked out disciplinary measures, according to reports.
The two were not formally charged with a crime and both were juveniles.
Todd Shoemaker, principal at BCHS, said two CHS students were identified as the alleged culprits and officials with both schools have worked out disciplinary measures.
The unidentified students were not formally charged, according to Shoemaker.
The juveniles were to pay restitution for cleaning up the bear and for a new paint job, as well as being ordered to perform community service for the schools, according to school officials.
- In November, area law enforcement agencies were notified of a number of DUI cases that could be affected (and investigations jeopardized) after a TBI lab scientist switched blood-alcohol samples during an investigation.
TBI Special Agent Kyle Bayer, a forensic scientist with the TBI Lab in Nashville, was placed on leave Oct. 3, after “a discrepancy in blood alcohol testing results.”
“This discrepancy was noted due to an independent analysis requested by an individual who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident in Hamilton County. The result of that private analysis was a 0.01 gm percent contrast with the result issued by Bayer, which was a 0.24 gm percent,” said Robert Royse, assistant director of the TBI.
Bradley County Assistant District Attorney General Brooklynn Townsend said Tennessee Highway Patrol is the only law enforcement agency that sends blood alcohol samples to the Nashville TBI lab for testing. Townsend, prosecutes DUI cases in Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties, which make up the 10th Judicial District.
Bradley County sends BAC potential evidence to Knoxville for testing.
Thirty-four total cases in the four counties are currently in the process of retesting by an independent lab.
Numerous cases in Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties were expected to be retested for THP cases.
- Richard Kyle Copeland, 33, left his position as an assistant girl’s basketball coach at Bradley Central High School after he was indicted by a Bradley County grand jury on a charge of inappropriate conduct with a student.
Copeland had been placed on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 5, according to Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel.
Assistant District Attorney General Stephen Hatchett said early on that the allegations included “inappropriate communications/contact, with a student.”
According to Bob Gault, media-relations coordinator with BCSO, after the investigation began, investigators had three other students who “were identified having similar allegations.” The other students’ allegations were included in the charges against Copeland.
According to the indictment, Copeland has been charged with four counts of solicitation of a minor for statutory rape by an authority figure and three counts of solicitation of a minor for sexual exploitation of a minor, all of which are felony charges.
Hatchett said electronic communications such as cellphone and computer activity indicated an application named “Snapchat” was reportedly downloaded on Copeland’s cellphone. Copeland’s school computer also allegedly contained evidence.
Copeland is to appear in Bradley County Criminal Court this month.
- While a man was in jail serving time on an aggravated assault charge, he also reportedly made plans to have his ex-wife killed.
Victor Dale Thomas, 56, was indicted in late December on solicitation of first-degree murder after investigators learned he approached another inmate at the Bradley County Jail about killing his ex-wife “after he was released from custody,” according to reports.
The inmate notified correction officers of the conversation, and they in turn contacted the Criminal Investigations Division at the Sheriff’s Office.
A four-month investigation led to an indictment for solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
- Although tragedy struck for a number of families, friends and acquaintances who lost loved ones to traffic-related incidents, an achievement of reducing the number of crashes is due to area law-enforcement as well as the driving public.
It’s not yet official, but according to Capt. W.G. Campbell of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, in 2013 Bradley County and Cleveland had the fewest traffic deaths in 25 years. Campbell said he is working with the state to determine crash data from the past, before better record-keeping was instituted.
Eight people died on Bradley County roadways in 2013, down from 23 in 2012.
Tragically, a popular Cleveland High School former coach, Randy L. Geren, 67, was the victim of a fatal wreck Dec. 30.
He died in a single-vehicle crash on Georgetown Road.
During the past year, a targeted campaign to slow drivers and educate them about the dangers of distracted driving, not buckling up and avoiding impairment has helped with safety, according to Campbell.